The Long Road Home

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  The store is dying. It’s customers dissipate, like rats abandoning a sinking ship. The evening suns red glow splits through the windows and paints the floor with its bloody swash.
“The store is now closed, thank you for shopping at Frontings,” a husk of a voice trills over the tannoy, repeating itself as soon as the initial message falls quiet.
The front entrance belches out the final patrons into the bitter winter night, who clutch their coats to their collars and bags to their chests and brave themselves against their homeward journey.
“Well,” sighs Sexton, an exhausted employee, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
”Yes,” replies Lilly-May absently, closing her till with a soft click. She turns to Sexton, smiles sweetly, and walks away.

  Upon exiting the building, Lilly-May decides to forgo public transport in favour of walking the mile to her homestead on Hampton Heath. The cool air calls to her, the crisp, almost painful feeling of it filling her lungs pushing her to remain in its icy embrace. She walks with purpose, her body slowly awakening from the atrophy her static state of employ had induced. As she edges closer to the outskirts of town, the bus that could have carried her to her doorstep passes by, aglow with an almost tangible warmth emanating from its windows. Lilly-May hugs herself in the darkness, this new dichotomy accentuating the sheer cold she had up until now been able to ignore.  The slight incline, deceptive in its lack of perceptible rise, begins to take it’s toll on Lilly-May’s muscles; an almost quaint burn.

  Lilly-May reaches the canal, a veritable short-cut guaranteed to cut ten minutes from her journey. Far away from the streetlamps of the road, Lilly-May relies on the bright screen of her phone to light her way, pushing a digit every time the pixels fade to reignite the display and crafting an impossibly long phone-number in the process. The river is threatening in the night, its water black and thick and inescapable.The surface is still, devoid of the usual fleet of boats that lay anchor here. Even the bank, where homeless dregs are so often found crawling into cardboard boxes to rest their greasy-haired heads, is nothing but a lonely stretch of browned grass. Lilly-May can’t help but feel unnerved. The gate of the lock beckons her forward, promising passage to the other side of the otherwise insurmountable expanse. Tentatively, Lilly-May clambers up to stand atop its slick surface, holding tight to the rail with her free hand. She can’t help but look down, however, at the water far below. As she does so her phone vibrates once inside her tight grip and then rings aloud its rendition of the Sky High theme from Kirby Super Star. The silence is shattered by the chiptune, the rivers peace a distant memory in the wake of this obnoxious intrusion, and Lilly-May, at once startled and terrified, throws the phone away as if it were rigged to blow. It soars high above her, slows, inevitably loses the battle against gravity and begins to fall. The trajectory is long enough for the Doppler effect to warp the sound as it tumbles past Lilly-May’s shocked face and then – with a satisfying ker-plunk far below it is cut off altogether. The phone sinks slowly as a nerve wracked Lilly-May looks on, cautiously leaning over the rail to watch the yellow screen descend into the unfathomable darkness, illuminating the frantic ripples on the waters surface for which it itself is responsible, before it flickers once, twice, and then dies completely, leaving Lilly-May wholly enveloped by the blackness of her surroundings.

  Lilly-May waits for her eyes to adjust, her own short breaths the only sound on the air. For a second there is something else, she is sure of it, something guttural, animal. She strains to hear it again, her own breathing caught painfully in her chest. She blinks repeatedly but the dark canvas before her refuses to fade into shapes. The air is quiet around her and the fire in her chest is getting worse. Slowly, very slowly, she lets out a long sigh through her lips. The cold, clammy bar gripped tightly in her hands are the only sign that tells Lilly-May she is indeed where she believes herself to be. Just as peace is returning to the shaken Lilly-May, it’s on the air again, a snarl, low and menacing and not of any world Lilly-May wants to be part of. It’s timbre continues for an endless amount of time, but its passage is unnatural, not to be trusted in moments like these. She can hear the sound thrumming against the chest of whatever is making it, revving itself sporadically and cutting out only to be resumed seconds later. Amidst the paralyzing grip of utter terror, Lilly-May can’t help but think she should have caught the bus.

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~ by Joseph Blame on June 29, 2010.

2 Responses to “The Long Road Home”

  1. The whole of the fourth paragraph was intense. I like it.

  2. I love this
    ‘Far away from the streetlamps of the road, Lilly-May relies on the bright screen of her phone to light her way, pushing a digit every time the pixels fade to reignite the display and crafting an impossibly long phone-number in the process.’

    WHAT IS IT! I hope tomorrow is part two of the long road home! please!

    Very captivating 🙂 good job

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